Points of Origin
by Marissa Lingen
Most people who have reached their eighties without raising children have every right to believe that they will go on not raising them, and Judith and I were no different until the day they turned up with the social worker, neatly scrubbed and pressed inside their vac-suits and carrying cases with all their remaining worldly possessions. There were three of them like stairsteps, their black hair cut in fringes across their foreheads and their dark eyes shining out disconcertingly familiar at me. But it wasn’t until the social worker said, “Mr. Chao and Ms. Goldstein, these are your grandchildren, Enid, Richard, and Harry,” that I remembered, sheepishly, about the genes we had given all those years ago, to that nice couple from New New Prague, before they left for the Oort Cloud.
I gaped like the tank fish I grow. Judith murmured in kind confusion. It was Enid who settled them all, gently and efficiently, in what used to be our spare room. Later it occurred to me that she was very practiced at it for a ten-year-old, but later I knew why.
The paperwork was lengthy, and some of it required actual paper, reminding us why it had been called that. I thought that was cheeky, given that the social worker was dumping the children on us without even a message to warn us, but you can’t give people children without at least some protocol. Even I understood that. And I had known about the collapse of the Oort Cloud economy, in a vague news-feed sort of way. I had just not thought to connect it with myself, much less my guest bedrooms.
Judith peered at them in her mild dismay when the social worker had left. “What . . . sorts of things do you eat?” she asked, the bundle of questions on her mind turning to the most immediately practical matter.
“We’re omnivores, thank you,” said Enid. Not only her composure but also her vocabulary was so much older than ten.
“But—what do you like?” said Judith.
“We don’t propose to be any trouble,” said Enid, but her brother Harry said, “Noodles. We really like noodles.”
“You do,” said Richard, rolling his eyes.
“We will eat,” Enid insisted, “whatever it is convenient to make. I can help if you like. And the boys, they’re big enough to do easy things. We won’t be a bother.”